Bombed-out buildings, burned-up cars, piles of rubble—and the blank stares of wounded and frightened people. These have become the familiar images of the Syrian civil war we watch from the safety of our living rooms. But for pastor Ahmed Hamati, Syria is his home, and Syrians are his people.
So when the war threatened the safety of his family, Ahmed had a difficult choice to make: flee Syria and save himself and his family like so many others have done, or stay and serve those who remain. He chose to stay.
Over the last five years, Syria has deteriorated into the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. According to the United Nations, an estimated 13.5 million Syrians are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 6 million of these are internally displaced, seeking refuge within their own battle-scarred homeland. On the front lines of those serving the needs of these displaced people is Pastor Ahmed. He now serves with several churches throughout Syria that, like him, are committed to serving those made destitute by the war.
Today Pastor Ahmed helps serve over 3,400 families throughout Syria with food, housing, and other basic needs. Although meeting these needs has been critical, Ahmed knew they needed more. In long term, men and women needed to find ways to provide for the needs of their own families.
Recently, Pastor Ahmed was connected with Heaven’s Family through the Micro-Loan Ministry, and, along with a small band of fellow pastors, is meeting the needs of displaced Syrian men, women and children through micro-loans that are used to start small businesses. Not only do these businesses help families meet their own needs, but they also free up resources that can be used to meet the basic needs of other families—and, most importantly, are helping them find a sense of dignity, meaning and hope in the midst of the ruin and despair surrounding them.
Pastor Ahmed isn’t only providing business start-up loans to Christian families, but also to Muslim families as a testimony of God’s love for them—a message they clearly understand, because many Muslim borrowers are now attending church to learn more.
Pastor Ahmed just completed his first 12-month payback cycle of loans to 13 families, and they have started businesses such as corner stores, honey making, and auto repair. Many of these are already self-sustaining and have the potential to support their families for generations to come. Most families are more ambitious, and after paying off their first loan they are eager for another, that they may expand their businesses even further.
One such borrower is a Muslim man we’ll call Aayiz. He could no longer provide for his family following a construction site accident that permanently injured his leg. With his loan, Aayiz purchased a pregnant milk cow. A few months later, however, the cow became sick. When Pastor Ahmed heard about the problem, he visited and prayed over the cow. A week later it recovered…and now it’s pregnant again!
Aayiz’s family recently told Ahmed, “We want to be like you and believe in your God”—a God who heals cows and cares for His people’s needs.
Ahmed is always finding new ways to love and serve the hurting people around him. A few months ago, for example, Aayiz came to the conclusion that he could not repay his loan without selling his cows. A man of integrity, he confessed his dilemma to Ahmed, who quickly got approval from his church to pay the school fees for Aayiz’s children and let him keep his cows for future profit. Aayiz and his family were stunned by the generosity of Ahmed’s church.
This is the heart of a man living like Jesus in Syria. A heart that seeks ways to give hope in the midst of hopelessness, that chooses to stay to serve the lives of the suffering instead of running to save his own. Many in Syria are thankful he didn’t run.